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Alberta riders go the wrong way, official blames ‘bike racing’

Stage 5 at the Tour of Alberta ends in confusion after most of the field makes a wrong turn and finishes the wrong way.

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SPRUCE GROVE, Alberta (VN) — Cyclists pedaling off course in races isn’t uncommon. A misplaced barrier, no barrier, a wayward cone, a corner taken too fast, or a race vehicle driver with an inability to follow directions have all stymied riders’ best intentions.

And sometimes it’s a rider’s lapse in a mixture of odd circumstance like Sven Erik Bystrom’s dilemma Sunday in the waning miles of the fifth stage at the Tour of Alberta.

With about six miles left in the event’s longest stage, a 126.8-mile flat trek negotiated in rain, heavy crosswinds, and sections of mud, Bystrom didn’t follow the directions of two marshals who motioned for him to turn right.

Bystrom, the 23-year-old Norwegian rider from Katusha, continued straight as he pedaled solo in pursuit of stage leader and eventual winner Lasse Norman Hansen, the Danish rider from Cannondale-Garmin. The main group, closely trailing Bystrom, followed the solo pursuer as the riders approached two finishing circuits. Confusion quickly ensued.

While Hansen continued correctly, Bystrom and the main field were notified they were off course, with the group pedaling slowly toward the finish line. Hansen was notified he was the stage winner before he finished. For a brief moment, the eventual stage winner pedaled toward the oncoming main field.

Neither Bystrom nor any Katusha representative was present at the post-race press conference, but the rider was quoted on the team’s website as saying:

“I attacked alone and at first I didn’t realize there was one guy still ahead since there are no radios in this race,” the rider said. “But then suddenly before we hit the local circuits they showed me the wrong way to go.

“I was just following the moto bikes in front of me. Then they tell me I have to turn around and also the entire peloton who were about 30 seconds behind me. It was over at that point.”

None of the other riders who spoke after the race seemed concerned, likely more pleased to be safely finished and done with a sloppy, cold stage.

According to the team’s press officer at the race, Katusha had not filed a protest as of late Sunday night.

Race officials determined Hansen deserved the stage win and Laurent Didier (Trek Factory Racing) was given second second place (he also stayed on course). The main field, which included race leader Bauke Mollema (Trek), was all awarded the same time, and there was no change at the top of the general classification. Mollema leads Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) by 6 seconds. Tom-Jelte Slagter (Cannondale), who won stages 3 and 4, is third at 22 seconds.

“Who knows why,” Jeff Corbett, the race’s technical director, said about the late-stage chaos. “Perhaps the second person (rider) to get that location didn’t see the marshal and everyone behind that just followed.”

“I didn’t see it but I went the right way (in a car), but then again I’ve driven the course 50 times. The first ride went the right way. Several motos went the right way, too. Something happened in there, but we don’t have the greatest video. But there was a marshal standing in the middle of the road and there was a second marshal standing in the island.

“I blame it on bike racing. It’s bike racing.”